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Q&A with Eben Sorkin

Type designer - Sorkin Type Co., Boston, USA

I am a type designer, typographer, type publisher, teacher and advocate for more intelligent type and type design tools and systems of type. I have also been a conference co-organizer for the ATypI in Amsterdam in 2013.

Favorite fonts

This is changing all the time as I discover new designs but also and more importantly as my insight deepens. For example in the same way that we need to be interested not so much in letters as in the system of letters to design type well I have become much more interested in paying attention to and gaining insight into what characteristics in typefaces work well in specific design contexts or which give rise to a particular feeling rather than on focusing in on a few favorite typefaces and then excessively favoring them. Similarly I am more impressed these days by what well considered families or sets of typefaces can do than I am with a single font. Historically Joshua Darden’s Freight family did a great deal to break the mold of people’s thinking about these issues. Looking at newer stuff I also enjoy the texture of the Font Bureau typeface Turnip and Commercial Type’s Lyon.


I started out using Fontlab but now I use a lot of different software. Each piece is good for something different. In addition to Fontlab I use TTX, Prepolator, Superpolator, Metrics machine, TTFAutohinter, Fontforge, DTL OT Master, Area 51 and Glyphs. This may be the year I begin using Robofont as well. Despite the fact that type design tools are pretty deeply flawed Type designers have a great deal to be thankful for where tools are concerned. We have it better than at any other time. I hope we keep improving the situation and get tools that are even better informed by what we know and understand about type design in the future. For example Fontlab forthcoming font editor and Metapolator make use of parametric variables. The new Superpolator is also looks exciting. Things like that help make me feel hopeful.

Ideal environment

Probably what I would find ideal is a situation where there is a mix of time in which to talk and brainstorm with colleagues and clients but also time to work in an very steady uninterrupted way. Perhaps even time to play in some way play a sport bocce, ping pong or ultimate Frisbee to help my reactions to design stay natural and authentic ...and also for the fun of it.


This has changed over time. Originally I wanted to make type because I saw the power of type to create a feeling. Then I fell in love with text faces and I spent a great deal of time looking at and photographing old books. Both of these things are still true but I am now excited about display type and type for editorial design as well. Sorting out ways of making type which is designed to be optimal for the web is also a major preoccupation for me.